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San Bernardino Mountains Land Trust
Nonprofit Organization 501(C)(3)
Tax ID # 33-0700417                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

SBMLT in the News

Press Coverage

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Thursday, February 7, 2013 12:00 am

"We live in a pretty remarkable place," said Peter Jorris, executive director of the San Bernardino Mountains Land Trust.

There are, he noted, a lot of really special communities—like Big Sur, Carmel, Palos Verdes—all of which have land trusts. "Other people living in remarkable places," Jorris said, "put a lot of energy into their land trusts."

The local land trust and its advocates are no exception to this rule. Since being founded in 1996, the San Bernardino Mountains Land Trust has participated in the protection of more than 12,000 acres of forest.

One of the most common questions Jorris is asked is, Just what is a land trust?

Jorris defines a land trust as "a nonprofit organization with the express purpose of protecting natural landscapes." Living as we do, he noted, in the most urbanized national forest in the U.S., it's critical to conserve "wildlife habitat, public recreation areas, and places that enrich and restore the human spirit— now and for future generations." (

When Jorris attends the annual conference of the California Council of Land Trusts, he gets inspired by seeing what the other 150 land trusts in the state have accomplished. And, he said, there is a movement at the national level toward accreditation for land trusts. There is, Jorris said, a rigorous process in place for land trusts to become accredited.

"We have to measure up to high standards of professional management and operations," he said, adhering to 12 categories of standardized practices and procedures—finances, real estate, legal obligations, organizational structure.

"Being accredited," said board member Polly Sauer, who chairs the SBMLT's fund-raising committee, "makes people more comfortable about donating land or money to us. The accreditation process is very stringent.

"When I think about the people who have given us land," she added, "I imagine in a number of cases they have accountants and attorneys who are looking at their donations and want to make sure the causes are worthy."

Jorris said he has already completed six of the 12 accreditation steps. The first set pertains to the nonprofit's operations, the second to the complexities of land acquisition, stewardship and management.

"I never imagined I'd end up in real estate," he said, noting the land trust is really a conservation real estate company.

As the land trust hears about parcels of land that may be for sale, Jorris and Kevin Kellems, the projects manager, visit the owner to see if he or she is amenable to the idea of selling to the land trust and having the land revert to the forest.

And how do they pay for the land?

The majority of the money comes from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was signed into law in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson. The idea grew out of a study on national recreation commissioned in the 1950s by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. What that study revealed, Jorris said, was that people were getting out and visiting national parks and forests.

This dedicated fund derives its money from royalties from offshore oil, a public commodity. The thinking, Jorris said, was that a portion of the profits from this public resource should be used to support other public resources.

The bill creating the Land and Water Conservation Fund, he noted, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The SBMLT also has a revolving acquisition fund which they use to buy the land. "Once we buy the property," Sauer said, "comes the hard work of being patient for the U.S. Forest Service to buy the land from us, using the Land and Water Conservation Fund."

But to return forest land to the national forest through that fund, some corner of it has to touch the national forest. Because the Eagle Ridge property off Grass Valley Road does not meet that criterion, the SBMLT has had to be creative about how to restore the desecrated property.

The land trust has a memorandum of understanding with the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District. The hope is to restore the property, which is a failed housing development, and create a space where folks can enjoy that natural habitat, which has been identified as a major wildlife corridor.

A two-mile loop trail, dedicated to the memory of Land Trust supporter Will Abell, has already been constructed. The land trust is working with the county and landscape architect Scott Peterson on the next phase of the Restore the Ridge project.

Jorris is hoping folks will step up and support the project, perhaps by donating a bench or a tree, which is possible through the website.

Retired forester Jim Asher, who serves on the SBMLT board, has said the forest on the Ridge is the most significant stand representing a mixed coniferous forest on the mountain.

“Our goal,” said Jorris, “is to return this land to the public.”

Peter Jorris

Peter Jorris

Peter Jorris, executive director of the San Bernardino Mountains Land Trust, was part of the Restore the Ridge clean-up effort as a two-mile trail was created.

Land Trust

Land Trust

A group of volunteers worked to create the two-mile trail through the Eagle Ridge property, 80 acres of which the San Bernardino Mountains Land Trust acquired